The Brussels-based commission has outlined initiatives to tackle member states with legislation in breach of EU law, explaining that compliance is a “prerequisite of a successful EU policy on online gambling.”
Regulatory regimes in nine countries, including Greece and Germany, will be referred to the European Court of Justice.
Commissioner Michel Barnier said the EC will also adopt recommendations to address consumer protection, responsible advertising, and match-fixing and money laundering. A porous, patchwork approach has produced different levels of protection to date.
The EGBA, which represents the continent’s leading gaming operators, “fully endorses this conclusion and applauds today´s EC decision to relaunch infringement proceedings,” while RGA chief executive Clive Hawkswood described the news as a “worthy attempt” to address key issues.
“In the longer term we hope that they will lead to greater regulatory consistency across the EU and bring an end to the completely fragmented market that has developed so far,” noted Hawkswood
Germany is in the process of allocating 20 sports betting licenses in a “highly contentious tendering procedure,” while Greece’s legislation blatantly favors monopoly operator OPAP.
Restrictive, protectionist legislation “closes the door” to regulated operators, encouraging consumers to seek unlicensed sites, the lobbying groups argue.
The Commission has faced fierce criticism for its feeble regulatory oversight. Operators and trade groups like the EGBA and the RGA have filed more than 30 formal complaints in the European Court of Justice; however, there’s been no action on a single complaint or infringement proceeding since 2008.
“The Commission’s credibility as guardian of the Treaty can only be guaranteed if it now proceeds with the rapid and substantive action that Commissioner Barnier has indicated will take place,” said Hawkswood
The report may not call for the unified, harmonized legislation that many want. However, it represents an important first step in getting non-compliant regimes in line with EU law.
“The Commission is not proposing EU-wide legislation on online gambling. It is proposing a comprehensive set of actions and common principles on protection,” it noted in its report.
As was previously reported, Barnier has been hesitant to hear legislative proposals. Restrictive, state-regulated markets are many of the largest and most influential in Europe. As a result, Barnier faces strong political opposition from national governments.
“We expect litigation at EU level to swiftly restore legal certainty for our sector in Europe. Unjustified restrictions and protectionist regimes have been hampering the sustainability of EU operators for far too long,” said Sigrid Ligné, secretary general of the EGBA.
EU member states have scheduled their next meeting for December.